I’ve faced down psychopaths armed with rocket launchers, spitting hatred at me from behind a teflon shield while I pump them full of bullets. I’ve broken a man’s arm, then beat him to death with the wet squishy end. I even fired an old lady out of a confetti cannon through a chain link fence (wait, that was another game…damn). But nothing I’ve faced so far compares to the day I started my new job.
“It’s easy Max” said Passos. “Breeze in, rub shoulders with some sexy soccer moms, do your thing, pick up your paycheck then book out.”
Through a ginger-beer haze I said yes.
999 Mockingbird Avenue was the address on the slip. Passos said I could pick up a bag of equipment from a lockup on 33rd and Main. The place smelled like the inside of a rabbit’s cage in high summer but the bag was there. Passos told me not to look inside until I got to the place. Natural curiosity has never been my thing, I always believed that sticking your nose into things is a surefire way to get your schnozz shot off.
The house was nice, sitting behind a white picket fence but all the warning signs were there. I just chose to ignore them. The swing set. The paddling pool. The damned Little Tikes Wendy House. Goddamn I should’ve just turned right around, found the nearest bar and poured myself two fingers of unconsciousness but like a boneheaded idiot I just carried on walking.
I rang the doorbell, a cheery little chime that sounded like a robot bird singing “Au Clair De La Lune” or some other shit.
A curvaceous woman answered the door, showing just enough cleavage to make me think Right Said Fred had taken up residence under her blouse.
“Heyyyyyy! You must be Max! Come in! Come in!” she twittered, ushering me through the door. Somewhere at the back of the house I could hear noises. Animal noises, like the noise you probably hear on a mink farm when it’s skinning time.
Maisie, the well stacked broad, walked on ahead leading me by the hand. She moved like liquid mercury poured over ratafia biscuits. I tried not to let it distract me, hefted the bag and followed.
“HEYYYY Everyone! Look who’s here! It’s Max the Puppet Master!”
In the few microseconds it took my visual cortex to register the scene, and the extra seconds it took my brain to process what was going on I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. Cold sweat broke out across my back and shoulders like I’d been hit with a freeze ray.
“Kids. Oh my gentle Jesus. Kids!”
Struggling to stay vertical I looked in the bag. Two hand puppets and a shiny red clowns nose looked back at me forlornly.
“READ US A STORY UNKIE MAX!” shouted the dozen or so voices, sounding like the ghostly voices of a scratched gramophone record.
“STO-RY STO-RY STO-RY!” they echoed…
What happened for the next hour was a complete blur. No bourbon hangover, no amphetamine-fuelled nightmare, no jilted hooker or coke-crazed drug baron could compare to that hour of terror. Kids clambering over each other, snot – oh god – so much snot, everywhere and over everything. I swear I saw one kid grind an oreo into the cream-coloured vanity rug with his heel while another kid stuck a half-licked lolly to his mother’s butt while she was using her smartphone to update her twitter feed.
There was no choice. I dived through the closed window, vaulted the paddling pool, dived over the picket fence and ran. Just ran.
Two days later, Passos rang. He was plenty pissed.
This article first appeared on Dead Pixels on Toast and is reproduced here with the express permission of the author. The original article can be found here.